“The Flash” Season 1 – Fun and Light Finally Comes to the DC Cinematic Universe

The Flash Season 1

   A show that manages to have both drama, fun and keep a consistent tone. I never expected such a thing from the CW as so much of there shows are grimdark and have characters stuck in a cycle (like the Winchesters) so no growth happens. Not so for the 1st Season of “The Flash.” Every episode has consequences and leads to something greater. There are obviously issues, mostly that come from being a CW show and falling into some of the traps that seem to come with the territory of that network hosting your show but it is counterbalanced with fun and joy while still keeping drama.

      “The Flash” was created by Greg Berlanti, Geoff Johns and Andrew Kreisberg.

 The story involves the Flash’s creation after Dr. Wells’s Collider sets off an explosion that creates Meta-Humans in Central City. From here Barry Allen must become the hero the city needs while solving the mystery of his murdered mother and stopping the Meta-humans in Central City.

The Pros: Central City – Central City is awesome! It is a city with hope that still has to deal with the problems of Super Humans who can cause problems. The fact that our protagonists made it this way adds another layer to that conflict within the city as well.

The Tone – The tone is uplifting even with Barry’s mother being dead and his father in prison. It’s very Disney in that way. It works and it is the only hopeful DC project I’ve seen so far. “Gotham” doesn’t have any for obvious reasons as that doesn’t really mix all that well with modern Batman and even Superman has gone grimdark. Not-so for the Flash who is still allowed his hope and innocence.

The Meta-Humans and Rogues – These folks are interesting even with many of them just being common thieves out for revenge. There were two who stood out though.

Everyman – Hannibal is a shapeshifter  and takes a lot to take down. He’s good at getting into our heroes’ heads.

The Trickster – Mark Hamill (who played “The Trickster” in other shows including the animated “Justice League”) is so much fun in this. He is like the Joker who he’s also played as we see him hold people hostage and put on a show. I can’t wait to see this character return as he almost outsmarts and beats the Flash, showing besides Captain Cold and Reverse-Flash and Grodd, that he is the best opponent.

Captain Cold – This guy is cold as ice and manages to manipulate our heroes to free the Meta-Humans. He isn’t a meta-human and more than makes up for it with his guile and his own version of honor as he never reveals who the Flash really is.

Allies – I enjoyed the allies even though they can fall a bit too much on to referencing “Arrow” sometimes. I get they are in the same universe but there is a better way to do crossovers.

Dr. Caitlin Snow – Snow is awkward and also one of the smartest members of the team and helps save Barry from the foot he often puts in his mouth on many occasions. I liked her character and that it took her a long time to come around to Dr. Wells her mentor being a villain.

Cisco Ramon – Cisco is the guy coming up with names for all the Meta-Humans. I really liked how we discover he is a Meta-Human as he remembers an alternate timeline where Dr. Wells kills him. Their relationship is great as he is the mentor and father Cisco never had and it is at S.T.A.R. Labs where he finds acceptance and family.

Oliver Queen/Arrow – He is the Batman to Flash’s Superman and the brood to the Flash’s joking and hope. That is really where their friendship really works. He joins the final fight and neutralizes the Alternate-Flash.

Felicity Smoak – She has  a great chemistry with Barry and the members of S.T.A.R. Labs and would have worked perfectly in this show. She helps characters grow and never stops being a friend.

Primary Antagonists – The main antagonists are a lot of fun. This is one thing the show did amazingly. Whether it is Grodd, Eiling or Thawne…these folks are intriguing.

General Eiling – Clancy Brown is in everything! In this we see him as the hunter of Meta-Humans as he hopes to weaponize them to stop the evil ones. To him people are a means to an end and he has a respect for the Flash even as Flash is probably on his hit list too.

Gorilla Grodd – Grodd was experimented on by Eiling and Thawne and continues to evolve. He is psychic and makes Joe nearly kill himself. He is also extremely strong and survives getting hit by a train. I can’t wait to see where his evolution takes him. I hope we get to see the Grodd of the animated Justice League as he was a Gorilla who felt like a threat and was on par with Lex Luthor in schemes at times.

Eobard Thawne/Reverse Flash – Thawne created the Flash since in his future he and the flash were enemies. He goes back in time to kill Barry as a child but fails due to the Flash saving his younger self so instead kills Barry’s mother as well as Dr. Wells to speed up the event and creation of Meta-Humans. He’s ambitious and complicated as even though he is a sociopath he clearly had feelings for his mentees and Barry. Tom Cavanaugh does a great job.

Protagonists – The primary protagonists are wonderful, even though the romances don’t really work.

Iris West – Iris goes from someone who is all about the social to an active journalist who first breaks the existence of the Flash to the world. Her arc is standing up for her agency as she shoots down Eddie or Barry whenever they try to speak for what she wants or what she should and shouldn’t know. This is what makes her compelling, not the love triangle.

Joe West – Jesse L. Martin (last saw him as Tom Collins in “Rent”) is awesome as the detective who adapts pretty quickly to the changing world of Central City. He works with Barry closely and has to deal with how his overprotectiveness alienates him from his daughter. He was one of my favorite characters and he is good at holding his own against the Meta-Humans.

Barry Allen/The Flash – Barry is kindness with a refusal to kill as we see him do all he can to see the best in people, even when he gets burned. He is naive and hopeful and it makes him a lot of fun and he deals with letting go of his mother and moving on with his life, taking all he learned from her to heart. He’s a bit of an obsessive nerd and it works for the character. I liked him when he wasn’t in romance mode.

The Parent Relationships – Wells and Barry, Barry and his Dad, Joe and Barry and Joe and Iris. These relationships really define the show as we see them grow in love and the relationships change overtime. Joe is overprotective but comes to trust his daughters choices in the end just as he does for Barry and Wells’s betrayal is contrasted with the fact that he wanted to give Barry what he had taken away and gives him the chance to save his mother.

The Flash and Reverse-Flash Relationship – These two are foils and contrasts made all the more complicated by the fact that the Reverse-Flash created Flash and became his mentor and friend. This makes his final demise sad in a way even as the writers write him as just ambitious and evil by the end.

The Cons: Eddie Thawne – There was the idea of a character here but in the end he was the trope “Noble Sacrifice” as he cornily says all he wanted was to be Iris’s hero. Lies, he wanted to be in a relationship with her, though due to plot it could never go anywhere.

Ronnie – Ronnie is the boyfriend who is just kind of there. He never feels like a character and just needs rescuing. He does save Flash a few times at least but he wasn’t needed for Snow to feel guilt over what happened. So in the end he was redundant. He does marry Doctor Snow at the end though.

Atom – What is it with boyfriends not being written all that well on this show? He’s the rich nerd billionare who bought out Oliver Queen’s company and is in a relationship with Felicity Smoak. He’s also just kind of there and exists only to have a mini-plot with Cisco. He is the reference part of the show.

Love Triangle – This didn’t work. I could see the ideas they were going for but in the end they just made everyone involved look like manipulative dicks. Whether it was Eddie and Iris passive aggressively fighting but still being together or the Flash lying to Iris and justfying himself by saying she likes him. Just didn’t work. The romances just didn’t work.

CW Look – Everything is too polished. It works sometimes but it makes it so destruction never looks real. It’s all too polished and CG.

Reference – Arrow and The Flash fight and it is cool until you think too hard about it. I get a meta-human making people angry and turning the Flash on Arrow but it felt more like a contrived reason to have them fight and to bring Arrow into things when The Flash worked fine with Felicity being the only reference to Starling City.

The Cliffhanger Ending – Future Flash stops Present Flash from saving his mom (no explanation is done but he does get to say good-bye. Eddie kills himself which erases Reverse-Flash who is his future descendant from existence and a big giant singularity forms above the city for the Flash to stop. The End.

    This was a good show and one I would definitely recommend. The Flash is one of the most underutilized characters in the DC Universe and is usually the glue of the Justice League. It is wonderful to see his comedic nature and charm put to good use here and allowing him space to breathe. This show could have easily been grimdark given the Reverse-Flash killed his mom, but he always manages to keep some level of innocence to him and light, even when he’s facing the dark. For this reason alone I’d recommend the show. It’s broken out of the dark tone the DC Cinematic Universe (Nolan “Dark Knight” Trilogy, “Man of Steel,” “Arrow,” etc.) seems to be trapped in.

Final Score: 8 / 10. Solidly good.

St. Vincent (2014): A Dark Comedy With a Good Heart

St. Vincent Poster

     “St. Vincent” pretty much shows that Bill Murray is still in great form and part of what makes a good comedy (or any story) is caring about the characters. Everyone in this is flawed but not to the point of likability which means the humor comes from who the people are. This is the key to good comedy. Suffice to say I did like a lot about this film, though I wouldn’t call it great or a favorite. I’ll explain why in the assessment.

     “St. Vincent” was directed by Theodore Melfi who was also the writer and one of the producers. The other producers were Fred Roos, Jenno Topping and Peter Chernin.

     The premise is Vincent (Bill Murray) is someone who is very down on his luck both literally (gambles and loses) and figurativly (in debt to everyone and something personal that is revealed later). Everything comes to a head and things change when Maggie (Melissa McCarthy) and her son Oliver (Jaeden Lieberher) break his fence and tree which later leads to Oliver being babysat by Vincent as his mom is working long hours. From here the story unfolds.

Here is the assessment of the film:

The Pros: The Soundtrack – I really enjoyed the music in this film. It has an indie feel to it and Theodore Shapiro did a great job capturing the emotions. If you aren’t into comedies, definitely at least check out the soundtrack.

Daka – Naomi Watts plays a Russian stripper who sleeps for sex on the side but soon develops a relationship with Vincent over the course of the film, as well as Oliver and Maggie. She is the one who doesn’t put up with crap and speaks clearly to all of them. This gives her a breath of fresh air in a few situations where Maggie is dealing with crap from the courts and her ex-husband and Vincent refuses to deal with his problems and finds himself unable to speak or move that much after a stroke. She adds a great dimension to it as she doesn’t like people it appears at first but in fact does care about those she adopts as family and her baby.

Zucko – Terrance Howard plays a small but essential role in this. He’s the loan shark who in the end causes Vincent to get a hard attack after Vincent loses all his money and he comes to collect. He’s interesting in that he does keep giving Vincent chances and after never appears again. In that way he must have noticed that Vincent was already in a hell of his own creation and decided he should stay there.

Maggie – Melissa McCarthy is really good and playing the single mother on hard times is something she does really well in this. We see how overwhelmed she is just trying to make ends meet post divorce and how no one has her back. This remains the case until Daka (the stripper in a relationship with Vincent) and Vincent finally come through and she finds support and community. This is really the entire arc of the picture but it does it well.

Vincent – Vincent is a terrible human being in many ways, but you also get why he is that way at the start. His wife has Alzheimers and he goes to take care of her and reach out to her and puts most of his money towards giving her a comfortable life. This motivation is one reason he’s afraid to get close to people until others (Daka, Maggie and mostly Oliver) break through that as they accept him as he is and in the case of Oliver during his Saints Speech expresses how grateful he is that Vincent is a part of his life and recounts the life he lived and how he lived like a saint (leading to the movies title). Of course he still drinks, smokes…though probably doesn’t gamble anymore and is still a bit of a prick but he finds community and in it acceptance and love he hasn’t experienced since his wife lost her mind. Bill Murray did an amazing job in this, playing both the dark humor that makes up Vincent and the affection that shines through as he shares his world with Oliver.

The Comedy – There are some great comedic moments in this and the movie succeeds at being a comedy. One moment is when Oliver is reading “The Giving Tree” and how giving is the most important thing. Maggie expresses herself as the tree and the boy as her ex in how she gave everything and got nothing back. How McCarthy executes it is brilliant. Bill Murray does too in his monotone execution of scenes and when he and Oliver are in the bars, hanging out with Daka and when they go gambling at the races.

Okay: Oliver – The guys a child actor and the really great ones are few and far between, but he does alright. He starts out as the kid afraid to stand up for himself, but after Vincent teaches him how to fight he defeats the bully and becomes friends with him.

The Ending – Vincent finds acceptance from the community and keeps doing what he’s doing but with more awareness of others. The speech recounting his life was great but in the credits he’s just listening to music and not caring about anything…the two are pretty stark contrasts and that hurts the ending making it okay but not a pro.

The Cons: Where is Zuko? – Zucko disappears. I would have liked some sort of follow up since Vincent owed a lot of money.

The Catholic School – The teacher who does the Saints report is quite funny and an interesting guy…though we don’t get much of him beyond him being accepting of others and devoted to his faith. The school functions as an antagonist until the end when things are resolved with Vincent but that process is more sudden than anything else. I wish it had happened gradually as we saw more of their interactions with Maggie.

      This was a good but not great comedy. I would definitely recommend it nonetheless. If you are a fan of McCarthy or Murray they are in top form in this and Naomi Watts has some great joke moments too in relation to the two of them. The story is really good and cares about it’s characters. The characters have actual arcs and change over time and we see relationships form in realistic ways. If you like comedy, drama, Murray and McCarthy definitely check this out!

Final Score: 8.2 / 10. It was a good dark comedy.